Are Sharks Purely Carnivorous? Examining Their Diet

are sharks carnivores

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Sharks are notorious for their fierce appearance and large, robust bodies. Many are top ocean predators that use their heightened senses to hunt prey.

With over 500 species in the world today, these cartilaginous fish have a varied diet consisting of anything from fish to polar bears.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a closer look at sharks’ diets and answer a question that often comes up when discussing these impressive marine animals. Are sharks carnivores?

Yes, the majority of sharks are carnivores that feed primarily on meat. This includes prey such as fish, seals, dolphins, and many other types of marine life that they can hunt and feed upon.

Are Sharks Carnivores Or Omnivores?

For the most part, many of the 500 species of shark are strict carnivores that feed on meat to sustain themselves.

Carnivorous sharks feed on fish, small crustaceans, and mollusks, whilst larger species also consume marine mammals such as dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

They will also eat large fish species such as tuna, mackerel, and even other small shark species.

Sharks are opportunistic feeders that eat meat as it’s packed full of protein and the macronutrients that sharks need to survive and thrive in the ocean.

That said, there is one species known as the Bonnethead shark which is a small member of the hammerhead genus that is thought to be the only shark species that is an omnivore.

This shark eats shrimp, small crabs, small fish, seagrass, and seaweed. In a new study, scientists determined that these sharks are able to digest large amounts of seagrass that they consume.

In previous studies, it was established that 62% of the shark’s gut content mass could be seagrass, but it was unknown if the sharks were actually digesting the plant matter.

Now it’s clear that they are digesting it, but it’s more of a byproduct of the sharks wanting something else, and simply filling a gap until the shark finds another food source.

Are Some Sharks Herbivores?

As far as science knows, there are no strict herbivore shark species, and the closest they come to being herbivores is the bonnethead shark.

These sharks are almost entirely herbivores and are about as efficient at digesting and breaking down seagrass as sea turtles are.

In 2007 when scientists examined the gut contents of bonnethead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, they found that over half of their diet in some cases was plant material.

This was an incredibly strange finding being that it was previously thought that all sharks were carnivorous animals.

These sharks are capable of digesting and making use of the plant material that they consume. Experiments were conducted that found bonnethead sharks actually gain weight from eating seagrass and seaweed.

However, despite the bonnethead shark being able to make use of plant material, many other sharks simply cannot and require a diet consisting of meat to survive.

Are Most Sharks Carnivores?

Yes, most shark species are carnivores. They have evolved over millions of years to find a diet that works for them depending on their species.

Many large species of sharks such as the Great White will feed on large mammals such as seals, dolphins, and even whales to sustain themselves.

They need to consume a large number of calories to remain healthy and at the top of their game. This is simply how nature intended sharks to be.

Sharks help control other populations by feeding on the weak, sick, or injured – ensuring that only the strongest of each species survives.

For many sharks, eating seaweed or seagrass is simply not an option as they are unable to digest it and it provides very little nutritional value for them to live on.

It’s much easier for a bull shark or tiger shark to feed on fish and other prey than to graze on seagrass all day.

Do All Sharks Eat Meat?

Every species of shark in our oceans consumes meat, but there are some species such as the basking shark and bonnethead shark that are omnivorous and eat plant material too.

This shows how important meat is in a shark diet. It’s clearly a source of food that they require to survive in our oceans.

It’s also one of the most abundant sources of food, with around 3.5 trillion different species of fish in our oceans for sharks to feed on.

Sharks are predators, with many being apex predators that have evolved and adapted to become excellent hunters.

They have weighted senses that allow them to detect blood from up to 1/4 mile away and an incredible sense of hearing.

Sharks not eating meat doesn’t make much sense when you think of these incredibly powerful predators.

Final Thoughts

So, are sharks carnivores? Yes, sharks are almost exclusively with the exception of a very small number of shark species that are omnivores.

Many sharks are predatory in nature and hunt other fish and marine animals in order to sustain themselves and stay on top of their game.

Seaweed and seagrass just don’t cut it for most sharks, aside from the bonnethead shark which is able to digest and eat this ocean salad as it pleases.

Eating meat is much more efficient for sharks, and provides them with a lot more bang for their buck which is required when you’re a top ocean predator.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and have learned something new today about why sharks are carnivorous and the reasons why they eat meat.

If you have enjoyed this article feel free to stick around to learn more about sharks and other marine life that we discuss here at MarinePatch.